Vocabulary Lesson – Clear

Quite a while back, I wrote a “vocabulary lesson” about cashier’s checks.

I wanted to continue on this to show why I believe the wording used by the banking industry is so misleading and why it is so easy for so many people to become victims of counterfeit cashier’s check scams.

So let’s say you receive a cashier’s check from someone and you are concerned if it is a valid check or not. You want to receive the payment you are entitled to, and you do not want to end up liable for money from a bad check. This is the case with many people who become victims of counterfeit cashier’s check scams. Many of them do not know how to make sure that a check is legitimate, so they bring it to their bank. They trust that the people who work with forms of currency every day will know how to make sure that this check is legitimate.

If the bank teller tells you that “the check will be clear in 24 hours” what does that really mean, and why is that confusing to the banking customer? Let’s take a look at the definition of the word clear.

free from blemishes; unhampered by restriction or limitation; unencumbered by debts or charges; free from obstruction

“clear.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.
Merriam-Webster Online. 25 October 2009
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clear

Banking: collection of funds on which a check is drawn, and payment of those funds to the holder of the check

“clear” Business Dictionaries from AllBusiness.com. 2009.
http://www.allbusiness.com/glossaries/clear/4949892-1.html

From reading these definitions one would think that when the bank tells you that an item, such as a cashier’s check, is “clear” that would mean that you are free to use that money with no worry . . . it should be unhampered by restrictions and funds should have been collected from the bank on which the check was drawn according to the definitions I found online from reliable sources. So then why is it that banking employees will tell their customers that the check is “clear” in 24 hours, but then contact them a week later to say that the check was found to be counterfeit? You cannot un-ring a bell. If it is clear one day, it should still be clear a week later.

Maybe the real problem is not the word “clear” but the fact that it takes on average 7 – 10 business days for a check to go through the entire clearing process, but many bank’s train their employees to tell people that cashier’s checks are “clear” in 24 hours. If it is a legitimate cashier’s check, then there would be no problems since it would be drawn against funds of the bank itself, but these checks are counterfeit and they are very good counterfeits, so good that they fool bank employees and bank managers on a daily basis.

So to make the vocabulary fit the situation, wouldn’t it be better for bank employees to inform their customers that “it could take over 10 days for the check to clear”. I know that the bank that we are currently with does this because I asked them before I opened an account with them. Test your bank out. Go in and ask them if you brought in a cashier’s check how long would it take for it to clear. If they tell you 24 hours, you might want to rethink who you are trusting with your money.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Support Scam Victims United by shopping at
http://shopittous.blogspot.com/

Seven years

Seven years ago this month my husband and I became victims of a counterfeit cashier’s check scam while selling his 1961 Buick Special online. So much has happened in those seven years.

We found that we were not alone, and that this was happening to others.
We started our website Scam Victims United to share our story with others.
We spoke out in the news about this issue.
We have worked with Consumer Protection Agencies to help spread the word about scams.
In the first two years of our site being operational, we helped to stop over 2 million dollars from going into the hands of scammers.

We have come a long way, but we still have so far to go. The Consumer Federation of America released the results of a survey in May 2009 which relates directly to information we at Scam Victims United work to educate people about. They found that fifty-nine percent of the respondents incorrectly believe that when you deposit a check or money order, your bank confirms that it is good before allowing you to withdraw the money. The number goes up to 70 percent among young adults age 18-24, and 71 percent of people with incomes under $25,000 and who did not complete high school. More than 40 percent of those surveyed do not know that they are liable if the checks or money orders they deposit or cash are counterfeit. Fifty-two percent age 18-24 and half of Hispanics incorrectly said the person who gave you the check must pay the bank back. This is precisely the type of information that we at Scam Victims United work to educate people about.

As you can see by the results of this survey, there is a great need for education in the area of banking terminology and the check clearing process. One of the major reasons that counterfeit cashier’s checkscams work so well is that when a bank customer hears the terms “the check is clear” or that it will be “verified in 24 hours” it gives them a false sense of security that the check is legitimate and that they can use the money with no repercussions.

And that is our mission.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Have Banks No Shame?

I saw this article by Joe Nocera of The New York Times and I had to share it with you.

Lobbies representing the banking industry are opposing the creation of a consumer financial protection agency.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/10/business/10nocera.html

Brought to you by
Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Education is the key

One of the common threads between many of the current scams, including Items for sale/ Internet Auction Fraud, Pet Scams/Puppy Scams, Secret Shopper Scams/Employment Scams, Romance Scams, Roommate/Rental Scams and even Lottery Scams, is that at some point the scammer will send the victim a cashier’s check, money order or traveler’s check. For some reason, the check will be for more than the agreed on amount, and the scammer will ask for the victim to wire that overage back to them. For many victims this will be a red flag, which it should be, so they take the next step and take the check to the bank . . . but this is where the confusion often comes into play.

To demonstrate my point, ask yourself this . . . if you deposited a cashier’s check into your bank account, at what point would you feel safe that the check is legitimate, and that you can use the funds from it with no financial risk?

A) After 24 hours

B) In 7 – 10 business days

C) When the check clears

D) When the funds are made available

E) A and C

F) C and D

G) None of the above

If you said A, you would have become a scam victim. Many banks will tell customers that a cashier’s check is verified in 24 hours. This is what our former bank told us when we deposited the check we received. Then, one week later, they called us and said that same check was now found to be counterfeit, and we owed them the money.

If you said B, you MIGHT NOT have become a scam victim, but it is still possible. As I just stated, our former bank found out that our check was counterfeit in one week, so we would have been saved, but there are some victims I have worked with that have seen there checks come back several weeks or months later. I was once told that a check could come back 6 months later, and the account holder would still be held liable.

If you said C, you would have become a scam victim. The term “cleared” only means that the clearing house has not sent the draft back for non-sufficient funds, closed account, or flag instructions on the account. It DOES NOT mean that the draft was written by the account holder, or that the money belongs to you.

If you said D, you would have become a scam victim. When you deposit a check into your account, your bank advances you the money for that check to keep the wheels of commerce moving . . . you cannot spend the money until you have it . . . so they credit your account with what is called a “provisional loan”, which is a no-signature loan from your bank to you. This DOES NOT mean that your bank has been credited by the issuing bank.

If you said E or F, I’m sorry, I only put those in there to try and throw a few people off. Since I have already shown you how A thru D are not correct, well, two wrongs don’t make a right.

The correct answer is G, none of the above. The sad part is, the scammers know this, and they use that to their advantage. This is why these scams work so well. The scammers are using counterfeit cashier’s checks, money orders or traveler’s checks, that are so good that many bank employees cannot tell the difference. They have watermarks on them and are made on the same quality of paper, so they get passed into the system just like a real cashier’s check would. It could take weeks before the item is detected as counterfeit, and by that time it is too late for the victim.

This is why education about scams, warning signs, red flags and banking procedure and terminology are so important in the fight against internet scams.

Vocabulary – Cashier’s Check

Are the terms and vocabulary used by the employees of the bank confusing to you? You are not the only one. The average American is not fully aware of what the words used in banking conversations really mean, and in the examples below I am going to show you how the definitions of these terms differ depending on the source . . . Webster’s Dictionary, Banking Glossaries and real world usage.

Let’s start with the definition of a cashier’s check.

: a check drawn by a bank on its own funds and signed by the cashier

“cashier’s check.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.
Merriam-Webster Online. 2 September 2009<http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cashier’s check>

A bank-issued check, also called official check or treasurer’s check, signed by
a bank officer and drawn against funds of the bank itself. A cashier’s check is
generally regarded as good as cash.

“cashier’s check.” Business Dictionaries from AllBusiness.com. 2009.
http://www.allbusiness.com/glossaries/cashiers-check/4948626-1.html

A check drawn on the funds of the bank, not against the funds in a depositor’s
account. However, the depositor paid for the cashier’s check with funds from
their account. The primary benefit of a cashier’s check is that the recipient of
the check is assured that the funds are available.

“cashier’s check.” Dictionary of Bank Terms and Phrases. 2009.
http://www.helpwithmybank.gov/dictionary/index.html#c

Knowing what we do about counterfeit cashier’s checks, the second two definitions are very misleading. One says that a cashier’s check is generally regarded as good as cash, and the other says that the recipient can be assured that the funds are available. Both of these statements would give people a false sense of security about the check, making them believe that they are valid checks. This is exactly why so many people become victims of Counterfeit Cashier’s Check Scams. In the minds of most Americans, a cashier’s check represents a valid and secure document to use, and they put their trust in that image of security.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Secret Shopper Scams

Many news reports are referring to this as the “newest” scam variation, but we have been seeing reports of these scams on our message board since 2005. The job description can be Secret Shopper, Mystery Shopper or Customer Service Evaluator, but it is all the same scam.The scammer will either place an ad in a legitimate classified listing, online or in print, or they will collect their victim’s names and email addresses off of resumes posted online. Some of them are even making “copy cat” websites of legitimate Secret Shopper companies to use in their scam to help convince the victim that this is all legitimate. For a listing of legitimate Secret Shopper companies, go to http://www.mysteryshop.org/

The victim will be told that they have been hired as a Secret Shopper and will be sent a cashier’s check or money order to cash and use on their assignments. One of the assignments is to review the service at a Western Union or Money Gram location. They are given a name and address to wire money to, from the check that was sent to them, and told to fill out an evaluation form on the service received and email or fax that back to the company they are working for. Everything seems fine, and some victims may even complete a few “assignments” before the check is discovered to be counterfeit. On average, it takes about 10 business days for the bank to realize that the check is counterfeit, but we have seen some cases where it has taken over 6 months. Once the bank dose find that the check is counterfeit, they will contact you demanding the return of the money and deduct the full amount of the check from your bank account. This sometimes leaves the victims with negative bank accounts.For more information on the check clearing process and the banking terms, please read http://scamvictimsunited.blogspot.com/2009/08/banking-terms-not-as-clear-as-they.html

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Sammy Rabbit

 

Yesterday I spoke on the phone with a wonderful man by the name of Sam Renick.  His site, www.itsahabit.com helps to teach children about good habits when it comes to money and saving.  I spoke with him about a possible partnership where we could teach children about scams and fraud.  My thought is that you need to teach the next generation about these issues so that they can have the tools to better protect themselves when they are out on their own.  How does scam and fraud education tie into financial education?  Well, once you have your money in your wallet/pocket/bank account, you have to know about scams and fraud otherwise the scammers will try to take that money from you.  Now I just have to figure out how to take this idea down to a young child’s level.  I need a good saying, like the old fire safety “Stop, Drop and Roll” that kids can remember and relate to . . . and then Sammy Rabbit and Scam Victims United can bring this message to the kids.

 

Please check out Sam Renick’s site. 

Author, Founder, CEO, Social Entrepreneur
The It’s a Habit! Company, Inc.
Award Winning Financial Education Products & Programs Since 2001
www.itsahabit.com
www.sammyrabbitblog.com
http://twitter.com/sammysays